Note: this is the first in a two-part series on children's bike safety. You can read our second blog post, featuring safety tips for when kids are on the road, here.
This time of year, neighborhoods are full of kids on bikes. Whether riding in the driveway or heading to the park, bicycle safety is a must. We've put together some important bicycle safety tips for kids that every parent should know before their child gets on a bike.
There are thousands of children's bikes on the market, and it can be confusing to sort through all of the options. There are several different factors to consider as a starting point:
Pick the right size bicycle. Kids' bikes are sized by the wheel, and you should choose a bike based on your child's size, not age. Have your child get on the bike to see if it's a good fit. According to bike safety experts, you want your child's knee to be about 75% extended when the pedal is in its lowest position.
Experts also recommend having your child straddle the frame of the bike. He or she should be able to comfortably put their feet on the ground, and there should be a 1-2 inch gap between the child and the top bar of the frame.
Never buy a bike that your child can "grow into." This might seem like a good investment but can be very dangerous.
Think about the brakes. Brakes are the most important mechanical part of the bicycle. Kids' bikes come with two different kinds of brakes – coaster breaks (which are engaged when the child pedals backward) or handbrakes. Because of kids' limited hand strength and small hand size, many children's bikes come with coaster brakes. Until a child's hands are strong and big enough to use a handbrake, stick to coaster brakes.
Once you have the bike picked out, it's time to move on to safety gear.
More children ages 5-14 go to emergency rooms for injuries involving bicycling than any other sport. The good news is that from head to toe, there is safety gear that can help keep you child safe on a bike.
Helmets – Helmets can reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 88%. However, only 45% of children ages 14 and under usually wear a bike helmet.
Experts recommend following helmet guidelines for your child:
Lights and reflectors – Daylight riding is your safest bet. However, if your child is on his or her bike at dawn, dusk, or in the evening, lights and reflectors are a must. The headlight should be visible for 500 feet, and you should attach rear reflectors.
Safe clothing – Kids should wear bright clothing when they ride a bike. The more they can stand out from their surroundings, the better. Clothes should be form fitting and free of straps – things such as loose pant legs and backpack straps can get caught in the bike chain. Kids should wear sneakers when they ride – not sandals or cleats – and they should never ride barefoot. Make sure shoelaces are tied properly.
No matter how much you prepare, accidents still happen. Reckless drivers, equipment defects, and dangerous conditions can disrupt even the most careful planning. If your child was hurt in a bicycle accident, we're here 24/7 to answer your questions.